The Terratec Noxon Audio 2 is part of a new breed of radio that eschews FM, DAB or satellite broadcasts in favour of Internet Protocol (IP) transmissions. Physically, it bears a striking resemblance to the Apple Mac Mini, thanks to its liberal use ivory-hued plastic and contrasting metallic silver.
A bulbous LED screen sits at the front of the unit, causing the entire device to sit up at the front. The reason, Terratec assures us, is because the Noxon 2 Audio will slot into a forthcoming product, the Noxon 2 Radio -- a dedicated speaker system that when paired with the Noxon 2 Audio forms a cube-shaped all-in-one IP radio receiver.
Setting up the Noxon 2 Audio is very easy. It can be connected to the Internet via an Ethernet cable, or to infrastructure or peer-to-peer wireless networks via its integrated 802.11b/g wireless adaptor. The process of configuring a wireless connection is the easiest we've seen for a device of this type. It searches for networks in its vicinity, asks you to choose the right one, then asks for any security information and off you go.
The Noxon 2 Audio can access around 2,500 radio stations. The level of choice seems daunting at first, but these can be browsed by genre or by country, and we soon found lots of content worth listening to. The device supports very high quality Internet audio encoded at up to 320Kbps, but audio quality depends very much on individual stations. We found the average IP stream was in the region of 128Kbps, which provides good sound quality.
It lacks speakers, but the Noxon 2 Audio can be connected to your existing hi-fi or PC speakers via optical and digital SPDIF audio ports located at the rear. You can also connect it to speakers or headphones thanks to the 3.5mm audio port under the plastic flap on its right-hand side.
Also under the flap is a USB port for connecting a separate USB memory key, MP3 player or plug-and-play USB hard disk containing audio files. The Noxon 2 Audio plays MP3s and Terratec says it also supports WMA files that are encrypted with DRM10 technology, such as those used by Napster.
Though we found the Noxon 2 Audio easy to use, it's not all peaches and cream. The quality of the LED display is pretty atrocious, which can make it difficult to see what you're doing. The problem is its limited horizontal and vertical viewing angles -- unless your eyes are directly in line with the screen, you'll find it hard to see. Conversely, the screen is very bright. If you're using it at night to create a little mood music, you'll also get some potentially unwanted mood lighting too.
Our other gripe is the fact that it can take several seconds to switch between stations. This is unavoidable, given that the device is at the whim of individual radio stations' ability to stream data quickly, but it's annoying nonetheless. It's also not possible to access the vast majority of the device's functions (volume, etc) without using the remote control.
Despite its flaws, the Noxon 2 Audio is an excellent piece of kit. Its extensive list of stations, ease of use, flexibility and attractive design make it one of our favourite audio products to date.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide